Collaboration

Google Apps v. Office 365: Email and messaging

Ian Hardenburgh continues his in-depth comparison of Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 office suites. In this segment, he compares the email and messaging features of both.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2012. It has been updated where necessary, along with its associated comparison spreadsheets, to reflect the latest information for both Google Apps and Office 365.

Previously, I did a head-to-head comparison of the Google Apps and Office 365 basic productivity applications as part of a planned series of posts that seeks -- as far as possible -- to differentiate these cloud-based office suites and help decision-makers to evaluate which suite, if either, may best suit your business needs whether you are a small, medium, or large enterprise. In this segment, I will compare the features of each one's email and messaging apps in as much detail as possible.

Communication is an integral part of any organization. Central to this role is email, and to a certain extent, various types of digital messaging (e.g., instant messaging). Google's mail server and user application, Gmail, and Office 365's online equivalent to Microsoft's on-premise Exchange Server and Outlook software, are arguably the two leaders in email networking and personal information management. However, the two services diverge in many ways. Central to this claim is that while Google remains unwavering in its quest to remain utterly cloud-based, Office 365 still relies heavily upon its on-premise software, such as Exchange Server and Active Directory [Update 04-03-2013: Both Exchange and Active Directory have since been de-emphasized]. Google does this as well in a few cases, but it is really just due to migration/adoption purposes (as with migrating users from an LDAP server). Nonetheless, this isn't necessarily a bad thing for Office 365, as hybrid cloud solutions can be said to be the best strategy going these days, as enterprises look to slowly transition their data and infrastructure to both on-demand and PaaS/IaaS type spaces.

In the attached chart, I review some of the more notable features of Gmail and Exchange Online, mostly in terms of that which is required by enterprise-class servers in traditional, on-premise data centers. Although some features, such as the sheer ability to organize and search for email messages and personal contacts are covered here, these capabilities are all but an afterthought these days as desktop clients and standards/open based file formats like Personal Storage Table files have become status quo. Secondly, toward the bottom of the chart, I examine messaging, or Google Apps' various new-age communication tools that help to complement your more traditional email messaging, against Lync Online.

Here are the primary feature areas that I cover in the chart for email:

  • Space/User allowances : Max number of users, storage space, message sizes, etc.
  • General organization and navigation
  • Filtering, search, e-discovery capabilities
  • Contacts and mailing lists
  • Directory
  • Migration
  • Mobility
  • Desktop client
  • Security
  • Policy and compliance
  • Networking

Here are the primary areas covered for messaging:

  • Chat/video conferencing
  • SMS/Voice
  • Social

The chart is very detailed, so for those who prefer a version to save to the desktop and manipulate, you can download the Excel chart here. If you prefer to view a snapshot version, click the thumbnail below to open to full-size.

Related tool:

TechRepublic Cost comparison toolkit: Google Apps vs. Office 365

Download this tool to find out which online productivity suite is most cost effective for your business. This download is available for free as part of a TechRepublic Pro membership or may be purchased through our online store.

About

Ian is a manager of business intelligence/analytics for a small cap NYSE traded energy company. He also freelance writes about business and technology, as well as consults SMBs upon Internet marketing strategy.

17 comments
sullivanjc
sullivanjc

Am I misunderstanding what reminders are? The graphic says GMail doesn't have them, but if you add an event to the calendar, the option to send reminders is plain as day. What am I missing?

brickengraver
brickengraver

One thing that I like a lot with 365 is ability to host custom made Access Database programs on Sharepoint. With a little bit of effort, one can create an Access Database, have it reside on sharepoint and keep it in sync with application running on client for more robust functionality. It maybe true that Enterprises my not use Access that much but for departmental apps it work great.

Gurugabe
Gurugabe

But do you really want to put private company data to Google's privacy policy or real lack of. This is what has been keeping us away from the Google services for us, until we were forced to switch. Google will tell you they can and will use information. Now that being said that does not mean that they read every document and email, or do they? Microsoft would probably do the same with their cloud. I would like to stick to a server in my network.

Nettleship
Nettleship

Outlook (at least via on-site exchange server) integrates calendar and task list/todo list into the e-mail client. Goggle on-line (which I'm currently using) does a pretty good job on the calendar integration and does let me set reminders for anything I've made "an event". It will let me move an e-mail to the calendar. Where it really falls down is on integrating tasks. Most of my tasks arrive via e-mail and Outlook let's me choose to make that e-mail part of a task. Once in the tasks I can organize as I see fit. Google flunks the tasks issue --and by the way, I'm among the thousands of its users who hates the "new look" because it's very, very difficult for older eyes to see features. Being able to see your items seems pretty basic to most of us.

Galaxar
Galaxar

As a small business owner I strongly disagree that offline access to data is not important. Google fails this. The combination of an Exchange Server + Outlook (or Apple Mail/Calendar/Address Book) is very reassuring. I don't agree with Google's 'Cloud only' approach. Microsoft Wins. Mobility : I need/want to be able access my Email/Calendar/Contacts on phones or tablets seamlessly. A hosted exchange account gives me the same convenience as a Gmail account without the privacy issues. I am growing increasingly concerned about preventing privacy 'leakage'. Google I have trusted up to now but if given a choice, I strongly favour having my data hosted in the privacy of a personal MS Exchange server rather than being constantly rummaged through by Google algorithms.. The recent push by Google to incorporate Google+ into everything just further alienates me, a former big Gmail user. Microsoft Wins. File formats : I hate having my data locked up in proprietary formats but since the corporate & government sectors have long since standardised on Office formats I give in and go with that. I have waited decades for some one to come up with a compelling successful alternative but it didn't happen. I recently tried Google Drive (Formerly Google Docs). I was _horrified_ to find that when I uploaded a file it was automatically converted to some proprietary Google format that no off-line software in the world could make sense of. No thanks! Microsoft Wins. Look I hate the big monopolist Microsoft as much as anyone who is old enough to have witness their rapacious business practices for the last 20 odd years but as far as I am concerned Microsoft have a mature product which is suddenly affordable and accessible to mere mortals whereas Google have a nebulous, ever changing, 'not quite there' product which has questionable privacy. My 2c.

mepotter
mepotter

What information did you use to determine small, medium, and large enterprises? Do you have specific numbers for each?

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

Generally speaking this is a comparison between Gmail and Exchange Online. My previous post discussed Office Web Apps. Did you mistakenly comment under the wrong article? Regardless, Microsoft promotes a hybrid approach to meeting enterprise office software needs. They understand that the cloud isn't ready for complete implementations yet. However, you'll generally see more-and-more features being pushed to Office 365. It's a rather brilliant strategy that is right in line with how the industry is moving. Furthermore, Exchange Online isn't part of the Office Web Apps suite, it's a subset of Office 365. Office Web Apps includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. I'm not sure what you mean by "SharePoint and Exchange include Office Web Apps"? Can you explain?

Justin James
Justin James

This isn't a comparison between Google Apps and "Office 365". It is a comparison between Google Apps and "Office Web Apps". Office 365 includes licenses for locally installed versions of software, and promotes using those versions wherever possible. Furthermore, SharePoint and Exchange include Office Web Apps as well, so it isn't like those applications are specific to Office 365. J.Ja

aflynnhpg
aflynnhpg

Are you talking about the Free Google apps policy or the Google Apps Premeir Policy?

GSystems
GSystems

The Privacy factor, I'll give you, but the redundancy is second to none. I would rather have my accounts guaranteed to be up (as I have now with Google Apps) than not. The seamless incorporation of Google Services and the level of control with the services I provide my employees is amazing. Saves tons of time. I fully agree that offline access is important, but when is the last time you needed to access something and it was not available to you online. Furthermore, you can still download any document you foresee needing without internet access. Given that the most communication in my company happens with individuals who have Android Smartphones helps, I'm sure. I love Microsoft. Even though I contemplated Linux after the Vista debacle, Windows 7 and 8CP seem like a step in the right direction. Maybe if I switch to a Windows Phone (which isn't unlikely) I'll reconsider O365, but for now, Google Apps it is...

Justin James
Justin James

"Generally speaking this is a comparison between Gmail and Exchange Online. My previous post discussed Office Web Apps. Did you mistakenly comment under the wrong article?" You are discussing both the backing system and the front end systems here. And yes, in your previous articles you misuse the "Office 365" title as well. This is an argument I have *all the time* at my job, which is why I'm familiar with it. EVERYONE uses "Office 365" interchangeably with "Office Web Apps". It's not accurate and it's confusing. Office 365 is a package that happens to include Office Web Apps. Even in your previous article, while you point out that there is a component called "Office Web Apps" as part of Office 365, you totally overlooked that it is NOT the only way to get Office as part of Office 365. Comparing "Office 365" to Google Apps on the basis of the online apps alone is simply impossible, though you can compare "Office Web Apps" to Google Apps, since the fill the same role within the same parameters. It's like comparing Ford to Ferrari, looking only at the Mustang Cobra and ignoring the Focus and F150... "I'm not sure what you mean by "SharePoint and Exchange include Office Web Apps"? Can you explain?" It means exactly what it says. You don't need Office 365 to get "Office Web Apps", Outlook Web Access is part of Exchange (and has been since 2003, perhaps 2000) and the other Office Web Apps products are bundled right into SharePoint. There is nothing about them that is specific to Office 365. J.Ja

brickengraver
brickengraver

The title reads Google Apps v. Office 365. And then of course colon and the explanatory phrase that it is concerning messaging. I use colons as an appositive. So to me a better title would have been "Email and Messaging in Google Apps v. Email and Messaging in Office 365. Excellent comparison on email and messaging in the two products . I am small guy but think that 365 with addition of sharepoint and being able to host Access applications in the clould is a huge advantage to me as I can now simply write or buy an app in Access and always have it synced in the cloud everytime I open it. It also seems would open up all kinds of departmental apps and custom apps written in Access that are now avaliable to anyone anywhere in the world with a simple login (hosted on their own sharepoint site). Distributing and maintaining an app is pretty painless now as is updating it. One of best selling points to me for 365. Of course this is the sharepoint component of 365, but my point was that it comes with 365 just as lync and web apps do. A great bonus that can add great flexibility. And I think there are large number of developers that could make a lot of money writing pretty robust database driven apps.

Galaxar
Galaxar

"I fully agree that offline access is important, but when is the last time you needed to access something and it was not available to you online." In a carpark or other 'black spot' where my cellular signal suddenly vanishes.. In my office when back hoe joe is working in our street or when an employee/spouse fiddles with something they have knowledge of... it happens.. ever felt that icy grip on your bowels when suddenly you cant locate a clients email addy or phone number because you've been cut off from the net? 25Gb email etc storage hosted in a M$ datacenter for AU$4/month, not too shabby for a small business user. "Furthermore, you can still download any document you foresee needing without internet access. Given that the most communication in my company happens with individuals who have Android Smartphones helps, I'm sure." I use Android phones in my business. When we purchase a new Android CP we dont even bother to enter a google account, just give the credentials of the exchange server and bingo, email/contacts/calendar sync'd to the phone just the same as Google but without the questionable privacy of Gmail. All our files etc are kept on Skydrive which i can access from our PC's, Mac's, Android & iPhones. We use 'the app called Foldersync' to keep copies of important stuff on the Skydrive sync'd to the SD card storage of the phones. 25Gb Skydrive storage for free. 25Gb + 25Gb more than enough for our needs at the moment thank you very much :)

Ian Hardenburgh
Ian Hardenburgh

I agree, but I'd think SQL Azure would be a better backend to SharePoint. Don't know your experience with SQL Server, but w/ the applications you are building, doesn't sound like the transition would be all too bad. My next Google Apps v. Office 365 will compare Google Sites w/ SharePoint Online. Thanks for you comments and check back soon!

Galaxar
Galaxar

Hehe, I've had personal experience at running an Exchange installation, not a job for the faint of heart :-) I would agree that any enterprise level servie like this will take _major_ investment of physical & intellectual resources. We looked at third party hosted Exchange offerings and decided they were too expensive and of questionable reliability (company's too small to trust). We chose a Microsoft hosted Exchange because we assume they have the physical & intellectual resources to run data centers correctly (they have mutliple spread out globally, maybe not on the Google scale but plenty enough). At the moment here in Australia our closest M$ data center is in Singapore. There is a major push on to get one located on our continent at the time of writing. (Incidentaly, ancedotaly it seems Apple's iCloud is having a lot of trouble with up time, perhaps no better than its old Mobile Me days.) Redundancy? Because M$ have a native application (Outlook) we have a physical copy of all our email, calendars, contacts & data files on every PC, Mac, Android & iPhone. The Mac's have time machine setup to maintain constant versioned backups of everything on them to a NAS. The PC's do simillar with a cobbled together solution. Assuming that every M$ data center in the world is not hit simultaneously by earthquakes & sunami's and our office burns down at the same time and all of our phones/tablets are all stolen as well at the same time.. we should be ok.. :-/ I think i just tempted the gods :-) Correct me if I'm wrong but with Google's system there is no native app's therefore no offline access to data except maybe your phone? Its all in the cloud baby.. and they reserve the right to rummage through all your data looking for advertising opportunities?

GSystems
GSystems

Admirable reply! Hmmm, maybe I'll reconsider as we grow. Google Apps is truly fitting the bill at this point. One more thing: my biggest attraction to Google is their inherent, massive redundancy. How are you addressing redundancy? How big is your business...who loses if your Exchange server fails (as I saw occur quite frequently at my last position)?

brickengraver
brickengraver

Like I said, I am a pretty small time programmer that got into VB and Access years ago to simply create a plant specific application to unburden me from all the compliance and monitoring reports for the EPA and to track all the process control parameters to make sure everything running well. I run a small water plant and a wastewater plant. Over the years I have made it generic enough that can be configured easily for other small plants. And it would be very useful for operators at similar plants (and of course there are thousands of them). Access has evolved to the point now it can handle just about anything I need for it to handle. I have for example a table with over ?? million records and can query and filter very quickly. What I am particularly intrigued with in Office 365 is to be able to put those tables and certain forms in the cloud where the data is accessible anywhere and with permissions, etc. and can be easily updated or viewed. Then when want to do more cpu intensive functions such as running complex queries, reports, etc. or view more complex coded forms, one can simply open in desktop Access and run those on the client. Best of both worlds in many ways as changes made when offline on client are automatically synced with the cloud, and any data entry done on cloud forms automatically synced with desktop every time it is opened. But the real beauty is that easy to distribute and update to any user around the world. And you get this for $6.00 a month. If someone wants a change, for example, I only have to log onto their SharePoint account, open the database in my desktop version of Access, make changes, upload it back, and the next time they open it up, the changes are there. Almost as easy as having updates to a mobile app be installed. For certain apps you could as I probably intend to do, simply include the Office 365 account for three months or a year or whatever already configured. I honestly think possibilities are pretty large for this kind of thing. This is of course not to say that I will ever get around to doing all of this, as I have all these software companies and IT departments wanting my engraved bricks and minifigs, but it is I think a very good model of how to distribute customized software for specific applications. Not all cloud apps need to be accessed by hundreds of concurrent users. Mineral collections, coin collections, all kinds of research projects, etc. etc. etc. Possibilities really are pretty endless.

Editor's Picks